AMERICAN MARY. Starring Katharine Isabelle, Antonio Cupo and Tristan Risk. Directed by Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska. 102 minutes. Rated R 18+ (graphic violence, adult themes).
Sounds innocent but beware. This is one of those popular torture horror films, better made than usual (and dedicated to Eli Roth, specialist in horror like Hostel). It may be difficult to watch because it is to do with surgical modification of people and not just hospital surgery.
Katharine Isabelle plays a precocious medical student specializing in surgery. She comes to the attention of some of her teachers whose motivations are not in accordance with medical ethics. She is struggling with debt problems. She finds herself in a situation, using her talents to help a victim surgically. She attracts the attention of a club owner and some of his staff and clientele and she is faced with a moral (and financial) dilemma: whether to accept the highly-paid but illegal and unethical jobs of modification she is offered – or not. No guessing what she decides. She does.
This leads to a number of surgical scenes, some quite explicit, others where the modifications are suggested (effectively). Because of the criminal connections of the club (which never seems to have many clients) and the malevolent intentions of the lustful doctors, she is assaulted and abducted. What is a girl to do? Abduct the lascivious doctor and submit him to gross surgery and abhorrent modifications.
So, many commentators have referred to this kind of film as ‘torture porn’. Defence is that it is telling a story vividly. Prosecution is whether this leads to indulgence in graphic mutilating violence.
Not a mainstream film but one which raises issues, for those who would wish to venture into this world, of themes and treatment and sensibilities.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.